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Walking results seen as just OK

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

After years of spending taxpayer money for trails and other upgrades to make Park City safer for walkers, Parkites say that the city is an OK spot, but not a great one, for people who are walking and bicycling.

A survey of 259 Parkites recently conducted for City Hall shows that, on a scale of one to five, Parkites rate the city a 3.42 for pedestrians and a 3.61 for being friendly to bicyclists.

The results are not low but they are not as a high as City Hall likely would have preferred given the many upgrades that have been completed over the last 20 years, a wide-ranging list of projects meant to encourage people to walk or bicycle instead of driving.

The survey was conducted as City Hall engages Parkites in an exercise to make the city’s trails system better. Other improvements meant to make the city more likable for walkers and others not driving cars are also being considered.

The surveyed Parkites say, also on a one-to-five scale, that the importance of walking safety rates a 4.36 and the importance of biking safety charts at 4.31. People peg the importance of safe sidewalks and paths at 4.49.

"We have certain areas that do not function well in terms of pedestrian use," Mayor Dana Williams admits.

He identifies the Bonanza Drive-Iron Horse Drive intersection, Park Avenue outside of Albertsons and routes from Prospector and Park Meadows to the schools campus as examples of problem areas.

Williams says he expected the results would not be stellar. He says Park City was built without lots of sidewalks and that planners about 30 years ago were more interested in driving, not walking, routes.

"The newer stuff was not designed for its walkability. It was designed for its drivability," he says.

The survey’s results were released in anticipation of a Dec. 21 Park City Council meeting, the last in a year when the elected officials were pressured by neighbors to make the city safer for walkers and bicyclists.

Unexpectedly, the issue was one of the key debates at City Hall in 2006, especially during the budget talks in the spring. Then, neighbors, particularly those in Park Meadows, asked for money for a study and staged a bicycle ride to City Hall before one hearing. The City Council agreed to the earmark.

The survey finds Parkites are more interested in the quality of the city’s water supply, rating that as a 4.64 priority on a scale of one to five. Paths and sidewalks rank second, well behind water, at 4.08. Others ranked include street repairs and upgrades, at 3.90, recreation programs, at 3.84, and transit, which rates 3.70.

Other results include:

( Sixty-eight percent of the adults surveyed tell the pollsters they use sidewalks and paths frequently, including 67 percent who walk at least several times each week and 30 percent who bicycle at least several times per week.

( Forty-one percent say the paths and sidewalks are definitely not or probably not adequate for walking to school. Thirty-six percent say the paths and sidewalks are definitely not or probably not adequate for walking to work.

( On a scale of one to five, the Parkites rate the overall condition a 3.65 and the overall safety at a 3.48. But the safety of crossings rate a 2.88, the snowplowing efforts score a 2.82 and the nighttime lighting tallies a 2.39.

( When asked why they do not use the paths and sidewalks, 29 percent say they are traveling too far as a definite reason, 23 percent say it is not a timely option, 9 percent say the paths and sidewalks are not safe and 24 percent say there are not paths and sidewalks close by.

Carolyn Frankenburg, who works with two organizations that want upgrades, says she was surveyed and claims the telephone questionnaire was frustrating because, she says, some questions were asked without background.

Frankenburg gives the city lower marks for its ease for walkers than the rest of the Parkites surveyed. She rates the city between 2 and 3, compared to the 3.42 the survey finds.

"It’s not very walkable but I do use them because I believe in trying to get around without getting in the car all the time," she says, adding that the open houses were more important than the survey because they produced lots of detailed ideas.

Frankenburg argues for better connections between trails, saying that those rate low.

"We have enclaves of good trails that don’t connect and come to an abrupt halt," she says.


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